COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. resumed their trend upward, and hit a record 924 today.
That metric to gauge the pandemic's spread included 15 consecutive increases in government data updates between December 29, when there were 206 COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals, and January 19, when there were 895. Yesterday, the count dropped slightly, to 891, but today's rise indicates that the count is not levelling off.
During that streak of increases, on January 14, the B.C. government broadened the way it counts COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals to include those who caught COVID-19 while already in hospital for another reason, people who entered hospital for COVID-19 and are no longer deemed infectious, and COVID-19 patients in B.C. hospitals who normally reside outside the province.
The B.C. government did not immediately provide an age breakdown for COVID-19 patients in hospitals, but Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has started stressing in press conferences that older people are at the most risk of contracting serious illnesses.
"The single most important risk factor for having severe illness with COVID-19 that requires hospitalization is age, and people who were aged 80 and over are 28 times more likely to be hospitalized if they get infected with COVID 19, controlling for every other risk factor," Henry told media earlier today. "This is really, really important."
Enhanced vulnerability of contracting serious COVID-19 infections starts at age 70, Henry added. Other people severely at risk include those who have had transplants, or who have immune-compromising conditions, diabetes, respiratory illnesses or heart conditions. Pregnant women also face increased risk, she said.
Of those in hospital, 130 have bad enough bouts of the disease to need treatment in intensive care units (ICUs). That is 11 more than yesterday, and is higher than all days since November 3, when there were 137 COVID-19 patients in B.C. ICUs.
Deaths have been rising, with 37 people losing their lives to COVID-19 in the past three days, including nine in the past 24 hours. Exact circumstances of each death is not publicly available, and it is not known how many of those people had underlying conditions, or what their ages were.
Given the susceptibility of older people to serious disease and death, it is concerning that the number of health-care facilities and seniors' homes with active outbreaks continues to rise.
There are now 62 such facilities that have active outbreaks – a net total of four more than yesterday.
Five new outbreaks in those facilities include:
• Pine Grove Care Centre in Kamloops;
• Mariposa Gardens in Osoyoos;
• Echo Village in Port Alberni;
• Mount St. Mary Hospital in Victoria; and
• Arrowsmith Lodge in Parksville.
The outbreak at Chartwell Langley Gardens in Langley Township has been declared over.
Testing centres across B.C. were overwhelmed in December as health officials were diagnosing record-high numbers of new cases. As such, Henry told vaccinated people with mild illnesses to self-isolate and not get tested. That meant that the province's daily new case counts were unreliable.
Nonetheless, health officials detected 2,364 new infections in the past 24 hours, which lowers the province's number of known active infections by 838, to 33,997, as recoveries outpaced known new cases. The government tends to consider people as recovered if they have gone 10 days after first exhibiting symptoms. Many people deemed recovered have lingering health conditions.
Vaccines have shown to be effective in preventing infection and serious illness.
Between Jan. 13 and Jan. 19, people not fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine accounted for 27.6% of cases, and between Jan. 6 and Jan. 19, they accounted for 30.9% of hospitalizations.
The B.C. government estimates that 89.4% of eligible British Columbians, older than five years, have had at least one vaccine shot, while 83.5% of that eligible population is fully vaccinated with two jabs.
Provincial data show 4,457,647 B.C. residents have had at least one dose of vaccine, while 93.4% of those, or 4,162,591, are considered fully vaccinated with two doses. There were 53,857 people given booster, or third, doses of vaccine in the past day, for a total of 1,754,063.
The B.C. government last year estimated that the province's total population is 5,147,712. Hence, Glacier Media's calculation is that 86.6% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 80.9% of the province's total population has had two doses. More than 34% have had their booster doses. •